The Advertising Standards Authority has published its top ten list of the most complained about adverts of 2017, featuring a Macmillan advert at number nine.
A television advert for Macmillan called A Dad with Cancer is still a Dad, which featured “fast-moving scenes of a father talking to his daughter, receiving chemotherapy, vomiting in a sink, sitting slumped in a bath, and crying in a car before being comforted by a nurse” received 116 complaints last year, according to the ASA.
The ASA said the majority of complaints were made by people complaining “that the imagery was overly graphic and distressing to viewers”.
It added that, while it understood “some of the scenes, particularly the one in which the man vomited, were distressing to some viewers” it believed the ad “served to illustrate the reality of living with cancer” and so did not uphold the complaints.
It also said that the storyline of the advert, and the “service that Macmillan Cancer Support was advertising provided context” and “addressed the serious nature of the illness appropriately”.
The ASA also noted that scheduling restrictions meant the ad wouldn’t be shown at the same time as children’s programming.
Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said: “Tackling misleading ads continues to be the bread and butter of our work, but 2017 again showed that it is ads that have the potential to offend that attract the highest numbers of complaints.
“But multiple complaints don’t necessarily mean that an ad has fallen on the wrong side of the line: we look carefully at the audience, the context and prevailing societal standards informed by public research before we decide.”
Kate Barker, director of brand at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "We wanted our adverts to portray an authentic picture of life with cancer, which means showing both the highs and lows. Treatment and its side effects can often be gruelling, and we understand that this might be upsetting to see.
"We tested our advert extensively with people affected by cancer to ensure we got the tone and message right. Our goal was to reach more people with cancer so they can access vital Macmillan support."
Nearly 30,000 complaints received in 2017
The ASA said that it received a total of 29,997 complaints from the public about ads in 2017. The ASA said that, while complaints were received about ads across a range of media, TV ads garnered the most complaints.
Of the ASA’s top 10 most complained about ads, the advertising regulator only upheld complaints against two of them: one against Dove and another against McDonald’s.
The most complained about ad in 2017 was Kentucky Fried Chicken’s The Whole Chicken advert, which garnered 755 complaints.